Experts: Global Warming Didn't Cause Katrina
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Experts: Global Warming Didn't Cause Katrina

Newsmax | September 1, 2005
By Phil Brennan

It didn't take long for the media to blame the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina on global warming, even though most climate experts dispute the idea.

In the Boston Globe - owned lock, stock and barrel by the New York Times, an avid promoter of global warming – Ross Gelbspan led off by informing his readers, "The Hurricane that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming."

He went on to claim: "As the atmosphere warms, it generates longer droughts, more-intense downpours, more-frequent heat waves, and more-severe storms. Although Katrina began as a relatively small hurricane that glanced off south Florida, it was supercharged with extraordinary intensity by the relatively blistering sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico."

But Dr. Stanley Goldenberg, a meteorologist at the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told "I speak for many hurricane climate researchers in saying that claims like that are nonsense.

"Katrina is part of a well-documented multidecadal-scale fluctuation in hurricane activity. This cycle was described in a heavily cited article printed in the journal Science in July 2001."

Dr. Goldenberg's colleague at NOAA, Chris Landsea, agreed. "Hurricanes have been going on for a long, long time," he told in an exclusive interview.

"They date back to Columbus' voyages and the Chinese have been writing about typhoons for a thousand years. Hurricanes are certainly a natural phenomenon.

"The question is are there any man made changes to hurricanes, and it's an important one to ask because we are changing the chemistry of the atmosphere. We're adding more carbon dioxide and methane and it does change the radiation and it's going to warm things up – some say a moderate amount and some say by a small amount, which is open to scientific debate.

"We also know that hurricanes are heat engines – they extract energy from the warm tropical oceans and release that heat in thunderstorm activity."

Even if by the year 2100 there is a doubling of carbon dioxide emissions and possibly a warming of the oceans by three degrees F., the overall change in the energy available to hurricanes would be fairly small, said Landsea.

"Our best guess now is that in about 100 years we may see hurricanes about five percent stronger than they are today with about five percent more rain. A five percent change is so small that it would hardly be noticeable."

Dr. Landsea concluded: "If you look at the raw hurricane data itself, there is no global warming signal. What we see instead is a strong cycling of activity. There are periods of 25 to 40 years where it's very busy and then periods of 25 to 40 years where it's fairly quiet.

"The last 10 years have certainly been busy but it is our suggestion that what we are seeing now we have seen before in the period from the late 1920s to the late 1960s, which was extremely active with Atlantic hurricanes. If you look at the raw data it doesn't show the last 10 years to be out of the ordinary."

Dr. William Gray, the professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University who issues annual forecasts for the hurricane season, says the severity of hurricane seasons changes with cycles of temperatures over several decades in the Atlantic Ocean. The recent onslaught, he explained "is very much natural."

According to Kenneth Chang, writing in the New York Times, Dr. Gray reported that from 1970 to 1994 the Atlantic was relatively quiet, with no more than three major hurricanes in any year and none at all in three of those years. Cooler water in the North Atlantic strengthened wind shear, which tends to tear storms apart before they turn into hurricanes.

In 1995, he said, hurricane patterns reverted to the active mode of the 1950s and 1960s. From 1995 to 2003, 32 major hurricanes, with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater, stormed across the Atlantic. It was merely chance, Dr. Gray told Chang, that only three of them struck the United States at full strength.

Historically, the rate has been 1 in 3.

Then last year, three major hurricanes, half of the six that formed during the season, hit the United States. A fourth, Frances, weakened before striking Florida.

Said Dr. Gray: "We were very lucky in that eight-year period, and the luck just ran out."

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